Sotheby’s VR Experience Blurs the Lines Between Real & Unreal


Forbes - Virtual Reality (VR) has been with us for decades, but has been a frustrating technology because of the expectations it raised, especially in recent years. A parallel and enriched world was the promise; a vapid and disconcerting experience the reality.

When VR has had an impact it has generally been a disruptive one and rarely one that is contemplative and beautiful. That, happily, has changed after auction house Sotheby's recent foray into bringing VR to its customers and potential purchasers of wonderful artwork.

Unsurprisingly for a surrealist experience, this tipping point has arrived with Surrealist artwork. Later this week, Sotheby's will sell Surrealist work by artists such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte... and its VR video is helping to market this work.

"We wanted to create an experience that brings a fresh perspective to how people engage with art and Surrealist works really lend themselves to virtual reality as they are so rich in depth and open to interpretation of meaning, evoking another reality in a sense.

"We worked closely with the art experts in the Surrealist team at Sotheby’s to be able to create an experience that peels back the layers of each painting’s composition. VR allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the painting – to almost step inside it and really get a sense of what’s going on inside these dreamlike worlds," said Nigel Hilditch, Director of Video, Sotheby’s Europe.

Walking around a 'Daliscape' is an ethereal walk around a virtual desert, almost tripping over the 3D images ahead while glancing behind and around in a disconcerting, but ultimately, satisfying amble. No screams, screeches or shocks, just a slow appreciation of Dali's nuances in a totally different world.

With some of the works expected to sell for up to $14 million this Wednesday, it remains to be seen whether the VR feature is a factor in raising the prices of the offered works, but it is likely that such VR works will be a recurring feature at auctions and exhibitions, something Sotheby's Europe's Hilditch expects.

"VR is being used more and more by museums and art institutions, often to show people around a gallery or exhibition space. The next stage is Augmented Reality which has the scope to allow us to bring together all our digital assets such as catalogues, photography, videos and exhibition space into one amazing experience," he concludes.


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